Home > Departmental History at UND > Under Libby’s Gaze: Merrifield 217

Under Libby’s Gaze: Merrifield 217

History at the University of North Dakota came to age with the arrival of the seminar.  The seminar in history originated in Germany and arrived in the US first at Harvard and then at Johns Hopkins under the direction of Henry Baxter Adams.  At UND it arrived via the University of Wisconsin Madison with its collection of Hopkins graduates — namely Frederick Jackson Turner and Charles H. Haskins.  Orin G. Libby learned under the seminar at Wisconsin and transplanted it to UND at the turn of the century.  He held the first seminars on U.S. History during the 1903-1904 academic year and two years later he offered his famous seminars on the history of the Northwest focusing on the history of North Dakota and Canada.  By 1907-08, he had arranged to get the papers from this seminar published by the State Historical Society in their Collections.  The work by this seminar formed the foundation for the history of the state.

Along with the seminar came the seminar room.  Large tables, maps, reference books, dark wood panels, form the basic components of seminar ambience.  The Department of History’s seminar room is 217 Merrifield.


Wood panels and the watchful eyes of historians past create the setting for serious, seminar research.  It’s disappointing that there are no women on the wall yet, but the collection of photos is hardly systematic or representative of the department as a whole.  It features Clarence Perkins, Felix Vondracek, Philip Green, Louis Geiger, John Harnsberger, and Robert Wilkins.  Vondracek and Perkins were department heads in their day.  Geiger and Wilkins were leaders in the department and significant scholars.  Green and Harnsberger, while accomplished, left little impact on the department: Harnsberger eventually left UND for Witchita State where he became department head.  Green left UND for Queen’s College in Charlotte, NC.  Elwyn Robinson looks on as well.


Like any good seminar rooms, it has maps for reference.  Many of these are the same aging Denoyer-Geppert standing maps that appear in room 209.  The exception in the large, detailed map of Great Britain on the wall. 

The central walls of Merrifield hall are immense and conspicuously weight bearing.  In an effort to keep the classrooms from feeling like bank vaults they have windows not only to the outside, but into the central hallway as well.

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